Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

53 by E. E. Cummings

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
for even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shoveling Snow

Shoveling Snow by Kirsten Dierking

If day after day I was caught inside
this muffle and hush

I would notice how birches
move with a lovely hum of spirits,

how falling snow is a privacy
warm as the space for sleeping,

how radiant snow is a dream
like leaving behind the body

and rising into that luminous place
where sometimes you meet

the people you've lost. How
silver branches scrawl their names

in tangled script against the white.
How the curves and cheekbones

of all my loved ones appear
in the polished marble of drifts.

Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Duino Elegies - Rilke

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them suddenly
pressed me against his heart, I would perish
in the embrace of his stronger existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure and are awed
because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Each single angel is terrifying.
And so I force myself, swallow and hold back
the surging call of my dark sobbing.
Oh, to whom can we turn for help?
Not angels, not humans;
and even the knowing animals are aware that we feel
little secure and at home in our interpreted world.
There remains perhaps some tree on a hillside
daily for us to see; yesterday's street remains for us
stayed, moved in with us and showed no signs of leaving.
Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind
full of cosmic space invades our frightened faces.
Whom would it not remain for -that longed-after,
gently disenchanting night, painfully there for the
solitary heart to achieve? Is it easier for lovers?
Don't you know yet ? Fling out of your arms the
emptiness into the spaces we breath -perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air in their more ferven flight

Today is the birthday of poet Rainer Maria Rilke (books by this author), born in Prague (1875). He was a delicate boy, born prematurely. The year before he was born, his mother had given birth to a girl who died after a week, and she wanted her son to fill that place. Rainer's given name was René, and his mother dressed him in dresses, braided his hair, and treated him like a girl. Later, he wrote, "I think my mother played with me as though I were a big doll." But his mother also encouraged him to read and write poetry, and made him copy out verses before he even knew how to read. He made a career as a poet by seducing a series of rich noblewomen who would support him while he wrote his books. One princess let him live for a while in her Castle Duino near Trieste, a medieval castle with fortified walls and an ancient square tower. Rilke's room had a view of the gulf of Trieste, which he loved. In a letter from his room he wrote, "I am looking out into the empty sea-space, directly into the universe, you might say." It was during the winter of 1912, alone in the castle, that Rilke later said he heard the voice of an angel speaking to him about the meaning of life and death, and he started a poem that began with the lines, "And if I cried, who'd listen to me in those angelic / orders? Even if one of them suddenly held me / to his heart, I'd vanish in his overwhelming / presence. Because beauty's nothing but the start of terror we can hardly bear, / and we adore it because of the serene scorn / it could kill us with. Every angel's terrifying."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hear My Prayer, O Lord...

Hear My Prayer, O Lord... by Barbara Hamby

Hear my prayer, O Lord, though all I do all day is watch
old black-and-white movies on TV. Speak to me
through William Powell or Myrna Loy, solve the mystery
of my sloth. Show me the way to take a walk or catch
a cold, anything but read another exposé
of the Kennedys. Teach me to sing or at least play
the piano. For ten years I took lessons, and all
I learned was to hate Bach. Shake me up or down. Call
me names. Break my ears with AC/DC—I deserve far
worse. Rebuke me in front of my ersatz friends. Who cares?
They don't like me much anyway. Make me fat in lieu
of thin. Give me a break or don't. I'm a hundred million
molecules in search of an author. If that's you, thank you
for my skin. Without it I'd be in worse shape than I'm in.

"Hear My Prayer, O Lord..." by Barbara Hamby, from All-Night Lingo Tango. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission - Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RIP - Ruth Stone


Good Advice

Here is not exactly here
because it passed by there
two seconds ago;
where it will not come back.
Although you adjust to this-
it's nothing, you say,
just the way it is.
How poor we are,
with all this running
through our fingers.
"Here," says the Devil,
"Eat. It's Paradise." 

********************************
Relatives

Grandma lives in this town;
in fact all over this town.
Granpa's dead.
Uncle Heery's brain-dead,
and them aunts! Well!
It's grandma you have to contend with.
She's here - she's there!
She works in the fast food hangout.
She's doing school lunches.
She's the crossing guard at the school corner.
She's the librarian's assistant.
She's part-time in the real estate office.
She's stuffing envelopes.
She gets up at three A.M.
to go to the screw factory;
and at night she's at the business school
taking a course in computer science.
Now you take this next town.
Grandpa's laid out in the cemetery
and grandma's gone wild and bought a bus ticket
to Disneyland.
Uncle Bimbo's been laid up for ten years
and them aunts
are all cashiers in ladies' clothing
and grandma couldn't stand the sight of them
washing their hands and their hair
and their panty hose.
"It's Marine World for me" grandma says.

Copyright © 1997 by Ruth Stone. First published in Prairie Schooner 71:1 (Spring 1997)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkeys by Mary Mackey

One November
a week before Thanksgiving
the Ohio river froze
and my great uncles
put on their coats
and drove the turkeys
across the ice
to Rosiclare
where they sold them
for enough to buy
my grandmother
a Christmas doll
with blue china eyes

I like to think
of the sound of
two hundred turkey feet
running across to Illinois
on their way
to the platter
the scrape of their nails
and my great uncles
in their homespun leggings
calling out gee and haw and git
to them as if they
were mules

I like to think of the Ohio
at that moment
the clear cold sky
the green river sleeping
under the ice
before the land got stripped
and the farm got sold
and the water turned the color
of whiskey
and all the uncles
lay down
and never got up again

I like to think of the world
before some genius invented
turkeys with pop-up plastic
thermometers
in their breasts
idiot birds
with no wildness left in them
turkeys that couldn't run the river
to save their souls

"Turkeys" by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, November 18, 2011

In The Secular Night

In the Secular Night by Margaret Atwood

In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house. It's two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you,
or this is your story;
you remember it from being sixteen,
when the others were out somewhere, having a good time,
or so you suspected,
and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream
and filled up the glass with grapejuice
and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller
with his big-band sound,
and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney,
and cried for a while because you were not dancing,
and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.

Now, forty years later, things have changed,
and it's baby lima beans.
It's necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You'd be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

There is so much silence between the words,
you say. You say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago
this could have been mysticism
or heresy. It isn't now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone's been run over.
The century grinds on.

"In the Secular Night" by Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.- Thanks to NPR

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Falling Leaves and Early Snow

Falling Leaves and Early Snow by Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
"They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.

In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
"Falling Leaves and Early Snow" by Kenneth Rexroth, from The Collected Shorter Poems. © New Directions Publishing Corporations, 2003

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Return of the Subjunctive by Tamara Madison

Oh, the Subjunctive, May it make its bold return!
May it ride back proud
In liveried coach,
May its two fine horses snort
And paw the ground,
And, escorted by its staunch
Attendants If and Whether,
May it descend in velvet cloak
And black-gloved hand
The lacquered steps of hope
And happenstance.
May it fix upon us its deep
Uncertain gaze!
I shall be there to greet it
Though my company
Be small and moody.
I shall beg it stay
And may its presence give
Some respite from the steely glare
Of Indicative, a mantle to shield us
From Passive's clammy chill.
May it light again the land
Between the world that was
And is, and that which still might be,
And may we tread again desire's
Leaf-dappled path
Of possibility.

"The Return of the Subjunctive" by Tamara Madison, from Wild Domestic. © Pearl Editions, 2011. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself

Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself, by Barbara Crooker

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

"Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself," by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. © Word Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What She Craved

What she craved by Marge Piercy

My mother sugared grapefruit;
my father salted it.
My mother sugared cantaloupe;
my father salted it.

My mother put sugar and lemon
on leaf lettuce from her garden;
two heaping teaspoonfuls into
her milky coffee, with cake.

Her teeth rotted out and were
yanked from her bleeding jaws
by a cheap sadist downtown.
Still she craved sweetness.

In a life with too much that
was bitter, tear soaked salty,
sour as unspoken grief,
sugar was her comfort

a little sweetness in the mouth
lingering like an infrequent kiss.;
sugar was the friend kept her clock
ticking through running down days.

"What she craved" by Marge Piercy, from The Art of Blessing the Day. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Reprinted with permission

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

From Out The Cave

From Out the Cave by Joyce Sutphen
(Thanks to The Writers Almanac)

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

"From Out the Cave" by Joyce Sutphen, from Straight Out of View. © Beacon Press, 1995. Reprinted with permission

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Jane" by George Bilgere.

Jane by George Bilgere 

Jane, the old woman across the street,
is lugging big black trash bags to the curb.
It's snowing hard, and the bags are turning white,
gradually disappearing in the storm.

Jane is getting ready to put her house on the market
and move into a home of some sort. A facility.
She's just too old to keep the place going anymore,
and as we chat about this on the sidewalk
I'm thinking, I'm so glad this isn't going to happen to me.

It seems like a terrible fate, to drag out your trash bags
and then head for a facility somewhere.
And all the worse to be old in a facility. But then,
that's the whole reason you go there in the first place.

But the great thing about being me, I'm thinking,
as I continue my morning walk around the block,
is that I'm not going to a facility of any sort.

That's for other people. I intend to go on
pretty much as I always have, enjoying life,
taking my morning walk, then coffee
and the newspaper, music and a good book.
Europe vaguely in the summers.
Then another year just like this one, on and on,
ad infinitum.

Why change this? I have no intention of doing so.
What Jane is doing—growing old,
taking out her ominous black trash bags
to vanish terribly in the snow, getting ready
for someone to drive her to the facility—

that may be her idea of the future (which I totally respect),
but it certainly isn't mine.

"Jane" by George Bilgere.

Friday, October 7, 2011


The Barefoot Boy - John Greenleaf Whittier

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim`s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy, -
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art, - the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye, -
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood`s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor`s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee`s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower`s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole`s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape`s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp`s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy, -
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood`s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O`er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs` orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt`s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reverie and Invocation

Thanks to The Writers Almanac - Reverie and Invocation by William Carlos Williams

Whether the rain comes down
or there be sunny days
the sleets of January or the haze
of autumn afternoons, when
we dream of our youth our gaze
grows mellow, wise man or fool,
we were young, the future
beckoned us.

Now we grow old and grey
and all we knew is forgotten
there comes alive in
the ash of today, memory! a god
who revives us! the apple trees
we climbed as a boy
the caress on our necks of
a summer breeze.

Come back and give us
those days when passion drove us
to break every rule.
We weren't bad, but good!
May our preachers find us
the courage still to sin so
and win so! and win so!
a life everlasting.

"Reverie and Invocation" by William Carlos Williams, from Collected Poems. © New Directions, 1962. Reprinted with permission

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stop All The Clocks

For my brother --- 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

By W. H. Auden
4 Weddings and a Funeral Video link - John Hannah

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Love Poem

by Paul Zimmer

In southern France live two old horses,
High in the foothills, not even French,
But English, retired steeplechasers
Brought across to accept an old age
Of ambling together in the Pyrenees
. At times they whinny and kick
At one another with impatience,
But they have grown to love each other.

In time the gelding grows ill
And is taken away for treatment.
The mare pines, pokes at her food,
Dallies on her rides until the other
Comes home.
She is in her stall
When the trailer rumbles
Through the gate into the field,
And she sings with impatience
Until her door is opened.
Then full
Of sound and speed, in need of
Each other, they entwine their necks,
Rub muzzles, bumping flanks
To embrace in their own way.
Together they prance to
The choicest pasture,
Standing together and apart,
To be glad until
They can no longer be glad.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Heaven

by Patrick Phillips

It will be the past
and we'll live there together.

Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.

It will be the past.
We'll all go back together.

Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.

It will be the past.
And it will last forever.

"Heaven" by Patrick Phillips, from Boy. © The University of Georgia Press, 2008.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September

September

it rained in my sleep
and in the morning the fields were wet

I dreamed of artillery
of the thunder of horses

in the morning the fields were strewn
with twigs and leaves

as if after a battle
or a sudden journey

I went to sleep in the summer
I dreamed of rain

in the morning the fields were wet
and it was autumn

"September" by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2009.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

She Comes Not When Noon Is On The Roses

SHE COMES NOT WHEN NOON IS ON THE ROSES
By Herbert Trench

She comes not when Noon is on the roses--
Too bright is Day.
She comes not to the Soul till it reposes
From work and play.

But when Night is on the hills, and the great Voices
Roll in from Sea,
By starlight and by candlelight and dreamlight
She comes to me.  

See my site for A Month in The Country

Charm - Rupert Brooke

In darkness the loud sea makes moan;
And earth is shaken, and all evils creep
About her ways.
Oh, now to know you sleep!
Out of the whirling blinding moil, alone,
Out of the slow grim fight,
One thought to wing -- to you, asleep,
In some cool room that's open to the night
Lying half-forward, breathing quietly,
One white hand on the white
Unrumpled sheet, and the ever-moving hair
Quiet and still at length! . . .

Your magic and your beauty and your strength,
Like hills at noon or sunlight on a tree,
Sleeping prevail in earth and air.

In the sweet gloom above the brown and white
Night benedictions hover; and the winds of night
Move gently round the room, and watch you there.
And through the dreadful hours
The trees and waters and the hills have kept
The sacred vigil while you slept,
And lay a way of dew and flowers
Where your feet, your morning feet, shall tread.
And still the darkness ebbs about your bed.
Quiet, and strange, and loving-kind, you sleep.
And holy joy about the earth is shed;
And holiness upon the deep.

Ode to Solitude


Alexander Pope, 1688-1744.

ODE ON SOLITUDE

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixt; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Read by Ruth on the death of Roz on the BBC's Spooks

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Night Journey - Rupert Brooke

The Night Journey - Rupert Brooke

HANDS and lit faces eddy to a line;
The dazed last minutes click; the clamour dies.
Beyond the great-swung arc o’ the roof, divine,
Night, smoky-scarv’d, with thousand coloured eyes

Glares the imperious mystery of the way.
Thirsty for dark, you feel the long-limbed train
Throb, stretch, thrill motion, slide, pull out and sway,
Strain for the far, pause, draw to strength again.…

As a man, caught by some great hour, will rise,
Slow-limbed, to meet the light or find his love;
And, breathing long, with staring sightless eyes,
Hands out, head back, agape and silent, move

Sure as a flood, smooth as a vast wind blowing;
And, gathering power and purpose as he goes,
Unstumbling, unreluctant, strong, unknowing,
Borne by a will not his, that lifts, that grows,

Sweep out to darkness, triumphing in his goal,
Out of the fire, out of the little room.…
—There is an end appointed, O my soul!
Crimson and green the signals burn; the gloom

Is hung with steam’s far-blowing livid streamers.
Lost into God, as lights in light, we fly,
Grown one with will, end-drunken huddled dreamers.
The white lights roar. The sounds of the world die.

And lips and laughter are forgotten things.
Speed sharpens; grows. Into the night, and on,
The strength and splendour of our purpose swings.
The lamps fade; and the stars. We are alone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Ordinary Weather of Summer

The Ordinary Weather of Summer (The Writer's Almanac)
by Linda Pastan

In the ordinary weather of summer
with storms rumbling from west to east
like so many freight trains hauling
their cargo of heat and rain,
the dogs sprawl on the back steps, panting,
insects assemble at every window,
and we quarrel again, bombarding
each other with small grievances,
our tempers flashing on and off
in bursts of heat lightning.
In the cooler air of morning,
we drink our coffee amicably enough
and walk down to the sea
which seems to tremble with meaning
and into which we plunge again and again.
The days continue hot.
At dusk the shadows are as blue
as the lips of the children stained
with berries or with the chill
of too much swimming.
So we move another summer closer
to our last summer together—
a time as real and implacable as the sea
out of which we come walking
on wobbly legs as if for the first time,
drying ourselves with rough towels,
shaking the water out of our blinded eyes.

"The Ordinary Weather of Summer" by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When Summer's Night Is Ending

XXXIX (from Last Poems) - A.E. Housman
(Ed Note: For My Brother)


When summer's end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
That looked to Wales away
And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
And darkness hard at hand,
And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
That ever can ensue
Must now be worse and few.

So here's an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer's parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Custer -by David Shumate 

He is a hard one to write a poem about. Like Napolean.
Hannibal. Genghis Khan. Already so large in history. To do it
right, I have to sit down with him. At a place of his own
choosing. Probably a steakhouse. We take a table in a corner.
But people still recognize him, come up and slap him on the
back, say how much they enjoyed studying about him in school
and ask for his autograph. After he eats, he leans back and
lights up a cigar and asks me what I want to know. Notebook in
hand, I suggest that we start with the Little Big Horn and work
our way back. But I realize I have offended him. That he
would rather take it the other way around. So he rants on
about the Civil War, the way west, the loyalty of good soldiers
and now and then twists his long yellow hair with his fingers.
But when he gets to the part about Sitting Bull, about Crazy
Horse, he develops a twitch above his right eye, raises his
finger for the waiter, excuses himself and goes to the restroom
while I sit there along the bluffs with the entire Sioux nation,
awaiting his return.

"Custer" by David Shumate, from High Water Mark. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philip Larkin - Poet Laureate

"HE WOULD NEVER USE ONE WORD WHERE NONE WOULD DO"

If you said "Nice day," he would look up
at the three clouds riding overhead,
nod at each, and go back to doing what-
ever he was doing or not doing.
If you asked for a smoke or a light,
he'd hand you whatever he found
in his pockets: a jackknife, a hankie --
usually unsoiled -- a dollar bill,
a subway token. Once he gave me
half the sandwich he was eating
at the little outdoor restaurant
on La Guardia Place. I remember
a single sparrow was perched on the back
of his chair, and when he held out
a piece of bread on his open palm,
the bird snatched it up and went back to
its place without even a thank you,
one hard eye staring at my bad eye
as though I were next. That was in May
of '97, spring had come late,
but the sun warmed both of us for hours
while silence prevailed, if you can call
the blaring of taxi horns and the trucks
fighting for parking and the kids on skates
streaming past silence. My friend Frankie
was such a comfort to me that year,
the year of the crisis. He would turn
up his great dark head just going gray
until his eyes met mine, and that was all
I needed to go on talking nonsense
as he sat patiently waiting me out,
the bird staring over his shoulder.
"Silence is silver," my Zaydee had said,
getting it wrong and right, just as he said
"Water is thicker than blood," thinking
this made him a real American.
Frankie was already American,
being half German, half Indian.
Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words. [bolding mine]

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Round

The Round - by Stanley Kunitz - Thanks to NPR

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
and still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed..."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

"The Round" by Stanley Kunitz, from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. © W.W. Norton, 2000. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rylance recites Walking Through A Wall - This year's Tonys

More Jenkins/Rylance. Acceptance speech this year's Tonys, turns again to another poem by Wisconsin poet Louis Jenkins Walking Through A Wall


Mark Rylance accepts his Tony - 2008




The speech is a poem by the Poet Louis Jenkins

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Own Heart

The Writers Almanac: My Own Heart
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

Today is the birthday of English poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844) (books by this author), born in Stratford, Essex. He won a poetry prize in grammar school and then received a grant to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied Classics and continued to write poetry. His academic record was outstanding, earning him the approbation of one of his masters, who called him "the star of Balliol." While he was at Oxford, Hopkins (who had been raised in the Anglican Church) converted to Roman Catholicism. His experience was so profound that he decided to become a Jesuit priest in 1868, and he burned all his poetry, feeling it was not befitting his profession as a clergyman. He did continue to keep a journal, however, and in 1875, he returned to poetry. He was living in Wales, and found its landscape and its language inspirational. When five Franciscan nuns died in a shipwreck, he was moved to write a long poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland. Once he was ordained in 1877, he worked as a parish priest in the slums of Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. He lived in Dublin from 1884 until his death of typhoid fever in 1889. Overworked, exhausted, and unwell, he wasn't happy there, and his poetry reflects his unhappiness. Called the "terrible sonnets," they show the poet's struggles with spiritual and artistic matters. Most of his poetry wasn't published in his lifetime, and it was so innovative that most people who did get to read it didn't understand it. As he wrote in a letter to Burns, "No doubt, my poetry errs on the side of oddness ..." But it influenced such 20th-century poets as W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Charles Wright

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Toward Paris

The Writers Almanac : Toward Paris [ed note: I know how he feels] - by Peter Makuck

My first time on the night train
I couldn't sleep

With expectation, the lucky
Shapes of houses wrapped in dream—

Trees slowed, then creaked to a stop.
4:00 a.m. under country stars.

Lower the window: new air,
A deserted dirt road and

A peasant pedaling away,
A wand-like loaf in his hand,

Tail-light growing weak
Red in the dark, as if his work

Was to bring fresh light
To woods and fields. He did,

Keeping me there at that
Balanced blue hour even later

In the Sainte Chappelle,
The blur of the Louvre and after.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The daisy follows soft the sun

The daisy follows soft the sun
by Emily Dickinson

The daisy follows soft the sun,
And when his golden walk is done,
Sits shyly at his feet.
He, waking, finds the flower near.
"Wherefore, marauder, art thou here?"
"Because, sir, love is sweet!"

We are the flower, Thou the sun!
Forgive us, if as days decline,
We nearer steal to Thee, —
Enamoured of the parting west,
The peace, the flight, the amethyst,
Night's possibility!
"The daisy follows soft the sun..." by Emily Dickinson. Public domain

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Barefoot Boy - John Greenleaf Whittier


No one reads Whittier any more, but he was a favorite of my youth. A copy of the painting by Winslow Homer hangs above my bed.


Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flying - Philip F Deaver

Flying - From the Writer's Almanac


I have a flying dream,
have since I was a kid.
In it, I remember suddenly
how to fly, something
for some reason I've forgotten;
by getting to a certain place
in my mind, I'm able simply to rise.
I go up only about sixty or seventy feet,
but that's high enough to look down on
my house, the one I grew up in,
in Tuscola, look down on it
and the trees of the neighborhood;
it's high enough to watch my father
from above as he leaves for work,
to see my mother as she gathers grapes
from the backyard arbor,
to see my sister in her pretty dress,
pulling all her friends in our wagon
down the long, new sidewalks,
to see our many dogs over the years—
high enough to see the blur of childhood,
to put my quiet shadow over all of us
early on. In the dream it's a summer's day
and I might sometimes also
be the one looking up, squinting hard
and seeing way high above
birds moving, black spots against the blue

Monday, June 6, 2011

Under The Waterfall

Under the Waterfall- By Thomas Hardy

"Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from the thickening shroud of grey.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow, boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks."
"And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?"
"Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though where precisely none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalised,
Is a drinking-glass:
For, down that pass,
My love and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.
"By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turn therefrom sipped lovers' wine.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

During the Assassinations

During the Assassinations by Maxine Kumin

I took the cello to its lesson,
the cheerleader to the gym.
I was a sixties soccer mom

and when the bassoon needed
double reeds to suck on
I scoured Boston.

I bought red knee-highs for the cheerleader.
Skirts wide enough to straddle
the cello onstage.

Cacophony of warm-up, then
the oboe's A, every
good boy does fine
, football

games with fake pompoms
siss-boom-ba and after,
gropings under the grandstands.

I went where I was called to go.
I clapped, I comforted.
I kept my eyes on Huntley and Brinkley.

During the assassinations
I marched with other soccer moms.
I carried lemons in case of tear gas.

I have a dream became my dream.
I stood all night
on the steps of the Pentagon.

With each new death
I added my grief
To the grief of millions

but always her pink suit
on the flat trunk of the limousine
and in her hand a piece of his skull.

"During the Assassinations" by Maxine Kumin, from Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2010

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Now I Become Myself

Now I Become Myself by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

"Now I Become Myself" by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton, 1993

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night by Walt Whitman 
Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses,
(never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear,
not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug
grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

"Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night" by Walt Whitman. Public domain.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Goosefeathers

Goosefeathers by Donald Hall
(Thanks to The Writers Almanac) 

When I was twelve I sat by myself in the steamliner
with a shoebox of sandwiches and deviled eggs
my mother made, and ate everything right away
as the train headed north by the Sound where trestles
of derelict trolley lines roosted nations of seagulls.
From South Station I took a taxi across Boston
to a shabby, black locomotive with coal car
that pulled two rickety coaches. It puffed past
long lines of empty commuter trains, past
suburbs thick with houses, past the milltowns
of Lawrence and Lowell, until the track curved
into New Hampshire's pastures of Holstein cattle.
My grandfather waited in his overalls at the depot
with horse and buggy to carry me to the farmhouse,
to fricasseed chicken, corn on the cob, and potatoes.
At nine o'clock, after shutting up the chickens
from skunk and fox, we sat by the cabinet radio
for Gabriel Heatter booming news of the war.
I slept through the night on my goosefeather bed.

"Goosefeathers" by Donald Hall, from The Back Chamber. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jamaica

Thanks to The Writers Almanac -- Jamaica by Michael Lind

In Jamaica, no grief's allowed.
There the rooftops are smile-white and the terrace pools,
          chairs and shirts are horizon-blue;
laughter's greener and song blacker than dragonflies;
          talk's resilient as hammock string.
Sorrow, though, has a home anywhere people are.
          From the suitcases tourists bring
it will wriggle and slip. It will be swept ashore,
          gripping branches a storm broke off.
I've not visited that island, and yet I'm sure,
          even there in Jamaica, on
afternoons when the blank porcelain dazzle breaks
          into chips on a million waves,
lizardlike on a wall sadness will blink and crawl.

"Jamaica" by Michael Lind, from Parallel Lives. © Etruscan Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Being a Little Well

Being a Little Well -  By Brian Aldiss

Couldn't you be a little well
For a little while longer?
Oh how I love your presence
And your virtue
If you could be just a little stronger
Would that hurt you?
All fair things perish, we know,
Yet death is a horrid surprise –
Just to see you so low
It rips my heart in two.
Tears burst unprompted from my eyes
Is there nothing I can do?
No, there's nothing I can do.
Just for a little while
Be a little well, love, if you can
Grant me that lovely smile.
I promise I'll smile too.
As I hold your frail hand, I'll
Hold back the chill that will befall.
Can't you be a little well at all?

from Mortal Morning, published by Flambard Press (£12.99). - Thanks to The Guardian

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daffodils

Daffodils by May Swenson

Yellow telephones
in a row in the garden
are ringing,
shrill with light.

Old-fashioned spring
brings earliest models out
each April the same,
naïve and classical.

Look into the yolk-
colored mouthpieces
alert with echoes.
Say hello to time.

"Daffodils" by May Swenson, from Nature: Poems Old and New. © Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keeping Things Whole By Mark Strand 

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in   
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Mark Strand, "Keeping Things Whole" from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House, Inc.

God Says Yes To Me

God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

"God Says Yes To Me" by Kaylin Haught, from The Palm of Your Hand. © Tilbury House Publishers, 1995.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mockingbirds

by Mary Oliver

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.
In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door
to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,
but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them
and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water
from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,
and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing
but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying
through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.


" A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

--John Keats

Friday, April 8, 2011

About A Boy Stirring Jam

A wooden spoon for stirring jam,
Dripping sweet tar, while in the pan
Plum magma’s bubbles blather.
For someone who can’t grasp the whole
There’s salvation in the remembered detail.
What, back then, did I know about that?
The real, hard as a diamond,
Was to happen in the indefinable
Future, and everything seemed
Only a sign of what was to come. How naïve.
Now I know inattention is an unforgivable sin
And each particle of time has an ultimate dimension.

— janusz szuber




Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dance Me to the End of Love

by Leonard Cohen
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

I started early, took my dog

I started Early – Took my Dog By Emily Dickinson

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – upon the Sands

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Boddice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion's Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

Title used by Kate Atkinson for her new novel, "Started Early, Took My Dog"

Monday, April 4, 2011

The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon

From Knopf's poem a day:


The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon by David Young


Someone was reading in the back,
two travelers had gone somewhere,
maybe to Chicago,

a boy was out walking, muffled up,
alert on the frozen creek,
a sauce was simmering on the stove.

Birds outside at the feeder
threw themselves softly
from branch to branch.

Suddenly I did not want my life
to be any different.
I was where I needed to be.

The birds swirled in the dusk.
The boy came back from the creek.
The dead were holding us up

the way the ice held him,
helping us breathe the way
air helps snowflakes swirl and fall.

And the sadness felt just right,
like a still and moving wave
on which the sun shone brilliantly

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Cristobel La Motte poem - from the novel Possession

A Cristobel La Motte poem - from the novel Possession by A.S. Byatt:
Gloves lie together
Limp and calm
Finger to finger
Palm to palm
With whitest tissue
To embalm
In these quiet cases
With hands creep
With supple stretchings
Out of sleep
Fingers clasp fingers
Troth to keep

—C.LaMotte
 Article: On Possession - By A.S.Byatt

And that made me think of this scene from The Age Of Innocence

Sunday, March 27, 2011

His Good Felt Hat

His Good Felt Hat by Bruce Taylor

All dogs and children awaiting
his flat ascending steps
up the steepest hill
for miles around,
hunched over, hands deep
into the jingle of his pockets

full of keys and key chain,
change purse, small change,
clean hanky, subway tokens, Tums
and Lifesavers or better yet,

Chicklets, or cough-drops, or gum
he'd give some to any grandchild
who could spell his word for the day
or who had learned another verse
from Proverbs or the Psalms

with his good felt hat in his hand
and his jacket folded neatly
over the other shoulder,
and his always white shirt
and his pin for perfect attendance
in the too wide lapel
of his second best suit

and his braces, belt
with initialed buckle,
vest, vest-chain, fob,
collar-stays, tie-pin,
cuff-links, Parker pen
and pencil set, glasses case,
address book and billfold

and if it was a Sunday
his best blue suit
and his bible, the small one,
and a white boutonniere
for his mother who was dead
and the envelopes for the offering.

"His Good Felt Hat" by Bruce Taylor, from Pity the World. © Plain View Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Forgetfulness

I may have posted this one sometime earlier, but it is worth repeating:

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

"Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins. Used with permission of the poet. (buy now)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Writers Almanac 3-20-11

From The Writers Almanac:

Her life was plain, her death
a common death—a girl
sewn into the watery shroud
of pneumonia. She was only
another Mary, there
in Illinois, and it was only
another April—the buds
of the honeysuckle folded
in prayer. Forgotten eyes,
forgotten smile, the cowlick
in her hair forgotten;
everything gone. Yet for
seventy years her grave
gave off the scent of roses.

"A Ghost Story" by Ted Kooser, from Weather Central. © The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer for our daughters

Thanks to the Writers Almanac:

Prayer for Our Daughters by Mark Jarman

May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven't written
Or still in middle age ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.

May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can't see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.

May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.

May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.

May they be themselves, long after we've stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn't bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.


"Prayer for Our Daughters" by Mark Jarman, from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. © Sarabande Books, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Beatles

The Beatles by Dorianne Laux

I never really understood why The Beatles
broke up, the whole
Yoko Ono thing seemed an excuse
for something deeper.
Sure, she was an irritation
with her helium screech, her skimpy
leatherette skirts, those tinted ovoid glasses
eclipsing half her face.

                                 But come on, Hey Jude
was putting caviar on the table, not to mention
those glittering lines of cocaine. Beatle music
was playing for moats dug out with a fleet
of backhoes circling the stadium-sized perimeters
of four manicured estates. Why Don't We
Do It In the Road
was backing up traffic
around the amphitheaters of the industrial world.
Yoko's avant-garde art projects and op-art
outfits were nothing against the shiploads of lucre
I'm Fixing a Hole and Here Comes the Sun
were bringing in.
                                 So why did they do it?
They had wives, kids, ex-wives, mortgages,
thoroughbreds and waist-coated butlers, lithe
young assistants power-lunching with publicists
in Paris, Rome. And they must have loved
one another almost as much as John
loved Yoko, brothers from the ghetto,
their shaggy heads touching
above the grand piano, their voices
straining toward perfect harmony.

                                 Maybe they arrived
at a place where nothing seemed real. A field
bigger than love or greed or jealousy.
An open space
where nothing is enough.

"The Beatles" by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sonnet - I am in need of music

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!


There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Elizabeth Bishop

From Committed To Memory by John Hollander

Remembered today because of a book review on memory, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer in the NY Times

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If The Owl Calls Again

If the owl calls again:

at dusk
from the island in the river,
and it's not too cold,

I'll wait for the moon
to rise,
then take wing and glide
to meet him.

We will not speak,
but hooded against the frost
soar above
the alder flats, searching
with tawny eyes.

And then we'll sit
in the shadowy spruce
and pick the bones
of careless mice,

while the long moon drifts
toward Asia
and the river mutters
in its icy bed.

And when the morning climbs
the limbs
we'll part without a sound,

fulfilled, floating
homeward as
the cold world awakens.

John Haines

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Perfection, Perfection

Perfection, Perfection by Kilian McDonnell

("I will walk the way of perfection." Psalm 101:2)

I have had it with perfection.
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.
Gone.

As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you
in.

It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green
joy.

Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its
birth.

Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can't be won, concedes the
war.

I've handed in my notice,
given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I
quit.

Hints I could have taken:
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo's radiant David
squints,

the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
cracked.

"Perfection, Perfection" by Kilian McDonnell, from Swift, Lord, You Are Not. © Saint John's University Press, 2003.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

why some people be
mad at me sometimes

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering
mine.

Lucille Clifton

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Blind Old Man

Thanks to The Writers Almanac: The Blind Old Man by Robert Bly

I don't know why so much sweetness hovers around us.
Nor why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoons,
Nor why the earth mutters so much about its children.

We'll never know why the snow falls through the night,
Nor how the heron stretches her long legs,
Nor why we feel so abandoned in the morning.

We have never understood how birds manage to fly,
Nor who the genius is who makes up dreams,
Nor how heaven and earth can appear in a poem.

We don't know why the rain falls so long.
The ditchdigger turns up one shovel after another.
The herons go on stitching the heavens together.

We've never heard about the day we were conceived
Nor the doctor who helped us to be born,
Nor that blind old man who decides when we will die.

It's hard to understand why the sun rises,
And why our children are mostly fond of us,
And why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoon.

"The Blind Old Man" by Robert Bly, from Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey. © W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Thing I Did

Thanks to the Writers Almanac: The Best Thing I Did by Ron Padgett

The best thing I did
for my mother
was to outlive her

for which I deserve
no credit

though it makes me glad
that she didn't have
to see me die

Like most people
(I suppose)
I feel I should
have done more
for her

Like what?
I wasn't such a bad son

I would have wanted
to have loved her as much
as she loved me
but I couldn't
I had a life a son of my own
a wife and my youth that kept going on
maybe too long

And now I love her more
and more

so that perhaps
when I die
our love will be the same

though I seriously doubt
my heart can ever be
as big as hers

"The Best Thing I Did" by Ron Padgett, from How Long. © Coffee House Press, 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Death Deal

Thanks to The Writers Almanac -- The Death Deal by Ron Padgett

Ever since that moment
when it first occurred
to me that I would die
(like everyone on earth!)
I struggled against
this eventuality, but
never thought of
how I'd die, exactly,
until around thirty
I made a mental list:
hit by car, shot
in head by random ricochet,
crushed beneath boulder,
victim of gas explosion,
head banged hard
in fall from ladder,
vaporized in plane crash,
dwindling away with cancer,
and so on. I tried to think
of which I'd take
if given the choice,
and came up time
and again with He died
in his sleep.
Now that I'm officially old,
though deep inside not
old officially or otherwise,
I'm oddly almost cheered
by the thought
that I might find out
in the not too distant future.
Now for lunch.

"The Death Deal" by Ron Padgett, from How Long. © Coffee House Press, 2011.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage

That faint line in the dark
might be the shore
of some heretofore unknown
small hour.
 
This fir-scent on the wind
must be the forests
of the unheard of month
between July and August.

-- James Richardson